Teenager and child tooth extractions reached record highs last year, equating to 170 hospital operations a day.
The latest figures from the Local Government Association (LGA) found that hospital extractions for under 18s in England are up almost a fifth over the last four years, to 42,911 during 2016/17.
The LGA believes the total cost of these extractions since 2012 now adds up to £165 million, around £36 million every year.
‘These figures, which have risen sharply, show that we have an oral health crisis and highlight the damage that excessive sugar intake is doing to young people’s teeth,’ Councillor Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said.
‘The fact that, due to the severity of the decay, 170 operations a day to remove teeth in children and teenagers have to be done in a hospital is alarming and also adds to current pressures on the NHS.
‘This concerning trend shows there is an urgent need to introduce measures to curb our sugar addiction, which is causing children’s teeth to rot.
‘There must be a reinvestment in innovative oral health education so that parents and children understand the impact of sugar on teeth and the importance of a good oral hygiene regime.’
The British Dental Association (BDA) has condemned ministers for a ‘short-sighted’ approach towards tooth decay.
It claims that dental patients in England are receiving a ‘second class service’, and has pointed to the lack of a national oral health programme for children, unlike in Wales and Scotland.
‘These statistics are a badge of dishonour for health ministers, who have failed to confront a wholly preventable disease,’ BDA chair, Mick Armstrong, said.
‘Tooth decay is the number one reason for child hospital admissions, but communities across England have been left hamstrung without resources or leadership.
‘This short-sightedness means just a few thousand children stand to benefit from policies that need to be reaching millions.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman told the BBC it was ‘determined to reduce the number of children having teeth extracted because of tooth decay’ and pointed to its sugar tax, which comes into effect in April on soft drinks with the most added sugar.
‘Our world-class NHS dentists are also playing a vital role to improve dental hygiene – in the last year 6.8 million children were seen by a dentist, representing 58.5% of the child population,’ she said.